March 20, 2013 - 12:57 PM
By Shannon Quesnel
Premier Christy Clark all but guaranteed to build Penticton's patient care tower if the business case for it works out.
The premier used the word, guaranteed, more than once today at a Penticton Regional Hospital press conference. She said the business case for the patient care tower should be finished this year or next. The BC government will also spend $2 million on the business plan.
When asked if committing to a plan is committing to build she said yes.
“This is how we do business here in our government,” she said. “We spent $8 billion on health care capital (in the past 12 years). We never start a business case unless we identify money for it in the long-term capital plan.”
She said the public has her word the patient care tower will happen.
“When we do a business case we mean business.”
Clark's Penticton visit was part of a tour that later took her to Osoyoos to talk about a new prison project and then to Kelowna to see an electronics manufacturing company.
When she was at Penticton's hospital she met with staff, patients and later a room full of journalists. With her was Norman Embree, Interior Health board chair, Mayor Dan Ashton and Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino.
Clark said the expansion is long overdue. During her previous visit to the 60-year-old hospital she saw asbestos being removed from the respiratory ward ceiling.
“And I thought you shouldn't have that in a hospital. That's not modern health care in British Columbia.
“That's why when I went back to Victoria I said we are going to move this to the next step. We are going to identify the money, we are going to put it aside, and we are going to guarantee this hospital gets built.”
She does not know how much it will cost. The estimated figure is currently $160 million from the province with $140 million coming from the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and several health foundations.
Clark said it's hoped savings can be found and the cost might come down from the estimated $300 million.
Dr. Braid Raison said he was optimistic. He waited outside the press conference, standing near a scale model of the proposed expansion.
The chief of staff said, “If the premier tells the treasury board she is going to build it, it probably gets built.”
Dr. Sarah Broder, a respirologist, is not as certain.
“What I see with the business plan, there is a lot of opportunity for the government to stall this process,” she said. “Unless I see a shovel in the ground I'm not going to be feeling this project has been fully committed to.”
She is also worried the hospital project might get lost in the shuffle after the May 14 provincial election.
“Until I actually see the shovel in the ground I'm not going to shut up.”
Her last comment refers to two public events put on by the Penticton Medical Society which is spearheading a campaign to get the expansion. One event was a large indoor rally in February where 800 people showed up to support the community's doctors. Broder, Raison and society chair Dr. David Paisley spoke on the need for a new space to solve the overcrowding issues at the old hospital.
The second event was a rally held on March 6 just outside the hospital. Doctors, patients and staff carried signs and shouted the need for a new hospital to drivers and pedestrians.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-488-3065.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013